September 8, 2013

State struggles to reduce threat of home heating oil spills

Despite stricter rules and better technology, factors hinder progress in Maine, which sees hundreds of leaks every year.

By Tux Turkel tturkel@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

Today's poll: Oil tanks

Should state officials raise standards on oil tanks and technologies even if it means an increase on surcharges for oil deliveries?

Yes

No

View Results

click image to enlarge

Chris Sprague, a service manager at Giroux Energy, installs a 275-gallon Roth oil tank recently in a Gorham home. The unit has an outer jacket that is meant to contain potential spills.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

The Roth Industries tank being installed in a Gorham home has an indicator alarm, above, that warns of a leak in the unit’s shell. The tanks also have fittings on the top of each unit, limiting spills from broken filters or supply lines.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines

SEARCH OIL AND HAZARDOUS 
SPILL REPORTS from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

In Massachusetts, a recent law required tank owners to upgrade their installations with either an oil safety valve or a protective sleeve for the supply line. It also required insurance companies to offer optional coverage for leaks.

There's also a growing push among oil dealers who provide full service to offer their customers the optional TankSure program. The test uses sound waves to measure the thickness of the tank in key places, and is done at tuneup time.

The program works like an insurance policy. Homeowners typically pay $55 a year, and if their tank needs replacement, they get roughly $1,000.

"We highly recommend it to our customers and roll it into their service plan," said Deanna Sherman, vice president at Dead River Co.

Dead River is among 25 Maine dealers, including Downeast Energy and Daigle Oil Co., that promote TankSure. Over the past 10 years, ultrasonic testing has spotted 2,890 tanks in Maine at risk of leaking, according to Mike Hatch, president of the Boston company that runs TankSure.

The program operates in 11 Northeast states. It tested 40,000 last year and is on target for 52,000 this year.

But TankSure's growth potential may be limited. Only 15 percent of all dealers offer TankSure, Hatch said, in an industry where the trend is to only sell oil.

"It's price-driven," he said. "There are fewer companies with full-service capabilities."

NEW GENERATION OF TANKS

While testing single-wall steel tanks will be necessary for many years, the DEP sees an ultimate solution in a new generation of tank designs.

At the DEP, McCaskill said that he has seen single-wall tanks that the department authorized 15 years ago leak, even though they were installed with best practices. Those tanks also tend to have filters and pipe fittings at the bottom, so when something breaks, the entire contents are lost.

The DEP now is promoting a German-designed tank made by Roth Industries. The unit looks more like a small refrigerator than an oil tank, with a polyethylene inner shell and galvanized sheet metal outer jacket. The outer jacket is meant to contain any oil that might leak from the inner shell, and the tank features a red float that pops up to warn of a shell leak. These tanks also have fittings on the top, limiting releases from broken filters or supply lines.

Giroux Energy Solutions in Portland has been installing the Roth tanks for six years, and now considers them the standard. They cost roughly $1,800 to install, and most customers choose them over basic models, the company said.

The value of tank inspections and new-tech tanks was highlighted in early September at a home in Portland.

Kevin Powell, a Giroux service technician, was preparing to give a 50-year-old tank an ultrasonic checkup when he noticed a rust spot on the bottom. The spot began to weep oil when Powell touched it with his finger. He installed a temporary, magnetic patch.

"The owner probably wouldn't have caught that until the tank was filled next, and there was oil on the floor," Powell said.

A few days later, Powell and service manager Chris Sprague removed the old tank and installed a Roth model. He said he couldn't recall the last time he put in a single-wall tank. Asked why all dealers haven't moved to double-wall storage, Powell suggested it's just a matter of veterans in the industry being resistant to a new technology.

"Afraid of the unknown, I guess," he said. 

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:

tturkel@mainetoday.com

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

 


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)


Today's poll: Oil tanks

Should state officials raise standards on oil tanks and technologies even if it means an increase on surcharges for oil deliveries?

Yes

No

View Results